The leader of the best young rider classification provided an indication that he is ready for the Alps with a fleeting attack on the yellow jersey group in the closing kilometres of Stage 15 today.
Yates was not initially scheduled to race the Tour but was substituted in, effectively to take pressure off Colombian Esteban Chaves.
There was a question mark over Chaves’s form after he injured his knee earlier this year and was sidelined from competition for fourth months. His race debut was compounded in the first week with tragic news that a close family friend and team physiotherapist had died in Colombia.
“We didn’t know his form coming in here because he didn’t have racing but we wanted to take him to the Tour because we’re thinking of the Vuelta as well,” Orica-Scott sports director Matt White said.
“He came in with very different preparation and then finding out basically that his sister died, he was really, really tight with her, on day two, that was obviously something hard for him to deal with and that’s affected him for sure.
“It’s his first Tour and now we’ve changed the role for him, he’s here more to help Simon.”
Yates has so far made a similar impression on the race to that of his identical twin brother, Adam, who last year finished fifth overall and claimed the white jersey. On the second rest day, the 24-year-old is seventh overall – two minutes and two seconds down on leader Chris Froome (Sky).
“Simon is a little more conservative in his personality. They both make great GC guys but they’re different and their personalities reflect how they race,” White said.
“People probably thought it was strange not to bring Adam back to the Tour de France after the results last year but we wanted to give him a broader look at cycling. He’d never done the Giro and with the Vuelta he’s going to get two attempts at GC in the one year, with a big break in between. That’s going to be better for him next year.”
Orica-Scott is observing a transition from an opportunistic to general classification team with the three riders. How that is balanced in future years remains to be seen, but White said extenuating circumstances will play into decisions on leadership over the three Grand Tours.
“We’ve got ideas already but we need to see the routes because the thing now is realistically, the Grand Tour that suits the team’s characteristics the most is the Giro with Esteban,” he said.
In the meantime, White is content with how this 104th edition is unfolding.
“This was our first Tour de France we went to planning on GC. Last year we adapted to plan. We knew Adam would be good but we didn’t expect him to be that good,” White said.
“If you told me at the start of the Tour that on the second rest day we’d be in seventh place with the white jersey I’d have been really happy.”